Having just completed the Opening the Door to Green Building study in two more regions (Alberta and North Carolina-Triangle Region), here is a quick reflection on what I have heard in reviewing the responses of nearly 700 participants...
What I have discovered through the studies is that there is three sets of ROI - the softer attributes of building green - i.e. social responsibility, sustainability policy and branding for employee retention and/or competitive stance, the more traditional sense of ROI - i.e. decrease in expenses due to energy efficiency, lower water usage, productivity/health, mitigation of storm water fees, higher rental absorption and premiums, increase in market value and the return on investment for the planet i.e. lower energy use, reduction in carbon footprint, resources conservation, etc. (No surprise that these reflect the Triple Bottom Line.). The difficulty is that most if not all of the first two sets are "potential" -- a few have been proven but not yet on a consistent or accessible basis. While the third can at times touch on a political and social “third rail” often derailing the conversation before it has a chance to explore the other areas of ROI. This last area is one that based on the current political climate might even worsen in the near term.
My belief, and I strongly feel this is particularly true in the small to mid-size geographic markets, is that the lack of relatable data for the first two ROI sets and the sometimes polarizing effect of the third set of ROI holds back the creation of a genuine and accepted value proposition for sustainable building. Which has led to some mistrust of what it means to build sustainable or in some instances what certain project certifications actually certify. What is needed is much more clarity and custom outreach. There seems to still be a lack of urgency or maybe even "well, they will get it eventually" mentality that holds back the market from doing the hard work of effectively reaching its audiences. The studies also showed a very high level confusion regarding the rating systems and product standards even among those who practice within the field. Certainly this market has experienced the challenges of rapid growth which has led to uneven delivery and at times unfulfilled expectations.
You can find the results of the Ohio, Alberta and North Carolina-Triangle here.